The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem based
in Dimona, Israel, wish to express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the
family of Solomon Teka, yet another Ethiopian teenager who was killed, this
time at the hands of an “off-duty” Israeli police officer.
Whatever the circumstances in Solomon’s case, we are most deeply saddened and concerned at the development of a clear pattern of brutal violent reactions in cases where young black men encounter their white fellow residents. The too-often deadly outcome of these encounters is the by-product of the larger society’s ignorance and misplaced biases and fears.
Do Israeli parents not know that their teenaged sons and daughters occasionally “act out” in public? That they might play their music in their cars loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear? That they often congregate in groups and engage in loud, sometimes boisterous conversations that can irritate others in the area? Do Israeli officials not know that many of their children have fallen victim to the rampant abuse of alcohol and drugs that plagues our society? That they may smoke, drink and conduct themselves inappropriately in public, often disrespecting authorities, seniors and others? But do their parents worry that they can be beaten or shot as a result of this juvenile behavior? We think not. But the parents of Black children do… and they think about it a lot. And there have been cases of Blacks being subjected to abuse and attack without any provocation or justification whatsoever.
This apprehension and fear leads to a growing wave of anger and frustration… as well as a never-ending cycle of violence. Sure, who can deny the counterproductive nature and ultimate futility of violence? But the outbursts of violence that have flared up in the wake of this tragedy must be understood, anticipated and addressed in this context.
If there was ever a time for principled, thoughtful leadership – it is now. There must be an end to the policies of benign neglect and expressions of outright hatred towards peoples of African ancestry in Israel. It contributes to the sense of hopelessness and futility that led to the violence after this most recent tragedy. The hateful rhetoric that has spewed from many in the political and religious sectors of Israeli society has been tolerated for far too long. It is not merely politically incorrect, culturally insensitive and undeniably racist, it is morally wrong – and thus against the teaching of the Torah! And enough is enough! It is past time for a national reckoning on race relations.
More than a “start-up nation,” Israel is to be a
“light among the nations”. While many have interpreted this Divine
mandate as the projection of financial prowess, military might and
technological know-how, it seems that we have forgotten that our “chosen-ness”
is rooted in our spiritual relationships with the Creator, this special land
and its unique people… ALL of its people.
We see here an opportunity – even as the fires and rage are yet smoldering – not for the establishment of high-level commissions to investigate the problems that led to these events. (Particularly when many who sit in such high-level positions bear direct responsibility for these problems.) For we already know the causes, even if we are in denial of them. It is time for men and women of integrity across the country to work to address and resolve the problems. They will not simply go away. Our failure to address this issue will pose an existential threat just as dangerous as Iranian missiles or environmental catastrophe. Now is the time.